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Creative highways and digital byways

Business & Arts is a monthly column by Ashraf Johaardien, an award-winning playwright, performer and producer. He is the CEO of Business and Arts South Africa (BASA), and a PhD candidate with the Unit for Creative Writing, University of Pretoria.

BASA Business Arts South Africa Ashraf JohaardienSpiking the lens in a clip on YouTube from CNN’s Marketplace Africa, the disarmingly charming and exquisitely beautiful Zain Asher smiles into the camera. Across time and space, she looks directly at me from the screen of my iPad, ‘Whether you’re doing a web search with Google, asking Siri for directions on an iPhone, or even getting movie recommendations on Netflix, you’re probably using AI every single day of your personal life,’ Asher tells me… and the 2 107 geographically disparate viewers who have watched the same clip before me. The camera pans away from her in a long shot, which magically segues to logo animation for the programme. A disembodied voice pronounces that artificial intelligence is all around us. ‘But are countries like South Africa adopting these technologies fast enough?’ the voice asks.
     Just like the character Bastian from The NeverEnding Story (based on Michael Ende’s German novel of the same name), those viewers and I (like the countless viewers of the film, and the innumerable readers of the novel) may think that we’re the ones watching, reading and/or listening… but is there someone… or something watching us?
     ‘Algorithmic superstructures are looking over your shoulder,’ warns a note in the programme for Impakt, a five-day digital multi-media arts festival that includes exhibitions, film screenings, lectures, panels, performances, presentations, and talks by artists at various locations in Utrecht in the Netherlands.
     The next Impakt festival ( will take place from 30 October until 3 November 2019. The second edition of Creativate takes place under the umbrella of the 2019 National Arts Festival ( For more information about this year’s Fak’ugesi Festival, keep an eye on for dates and programme details.

To continue reading about the Impakt and Fak’ugesi festivals, and Creativate at NAF, purchase the June 2019 issue of Creative Feel or, to continue supporting our role in the South African arts and culture sector, subscribe to our monthly magazine from only R180.00 to R365.00 per year!

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